June 17, 2009

Archaeologists worry about school dig

Missouri archaeologists are concerned about a high school project in a St. Louis suburb, a dig at one of the oldest settlements in the state.

An honors class at McLuer North High School in Florissant is carrying out the dig at St. Ferdinand Shrine under the direction of Robert Huitt, a social studies teacher, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Huitt, who has spent two summers digging in Greece, says he is qualified to supervise the students, but archaeologists say news videos show improper techniques.

Lyle Sparkman, president of the Missouri Archaeological Society, asked Ferguson-Florissant School Superintendent Jeffrey Spiegel for more care, the report said.

The St. Ferdinand site is like a book that can only be read once, because in the process of reading, it is being destroyed, he said in a letter. Far better that it be left alone than to be 'skim read.'

Because the shrine is privately owned, although it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and no grant money is involved, there are no standards for archaeological work, Missouri Historic Preservation Officer Mark Miles said.

Spiegel has responded that the work is being done to high standards and the videos are misleading.